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okra stew | bamya

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds stew meat, in large chunks
  • 3 cups water
  • Salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, crushed through a press
  • 26 ounce container diced tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 red bell pepper, medium diced
  • 2 jalapeƱos, seeded and pith removed, small diced
  • 28 ounces frozen baby okra, rinsed under cold water to melt away any frost *
  • 1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Cooked basmati rice, for serving

Instructions

  1. Rinse the meat (or skip the rinsing if you prefer). Place the meat in the bottom of a large saucepan, and cover it with the water and 3/4 teaspoon of salt (or to taste). Bring to a simmer over high heat, then cover and reduce to medium-low. Adjust the heat to maintain a gentle boil. Wipe down the sides of the pot once or twice while it cooks, and/or skim any scum that forms on the surface. Cook for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, until the meat is very tender.
  2. While you’re waiting on the beef, place a large dutch oven or stockpot over medium-high heat and add the butter. Once the butter melts, add the onions, and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 to 7 minutes, just until the onion softens and takes on a little golden color around the edges. Add the garlic and cook for about 1 minute, just to take the raw edge off the garlic.
  3. Immediately add the diced tomatoes, black pepper, and salt to taste (my diced tomatoes didn’t have much sodium, so I added 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt). Bring to a simmer, cover, and reduce heat to low. Cook for about 10 minutes, just to allow the flavors to meld.
  4. Add the red pepper, jalapeƱos, okra, and the braised beef with the braising liquid. Increase the heat to medium-high, stir everything together and wait for it to come to a simmer. Once bubbles break the surface, cover, reduce heat to low, and cook for about 5 to 15 minutes, just until everything softens to your desired consistency. I like the veggies a little al dente, and not totally soft, so I usually do just 5 minutes, but my grandmother likes to cook them for the full 15. It’s a preference thing, and you can even cook them longer if you want them really falling apart.
  5. Once the stew is done to your liking, add the lemon juice, and carefully fold everything together without mashing the okra.

Notes

* Baby okra is hard to find fresh, but you can find it frozen in some Middle Eastern markets. If you can’t find baby okra, you can use regular-sized okra, but read the notes above the recipe if you want to know why you should leave them whole instead of cutting them into smaller pieces. If you’re using frozen baby okra, it should already be prepped, but if you’re using fresh, you’ll need to stem and pare them. Here’s how: cut the tough part of the stem off, but leave the tender part of the stem intact (you should definitely not see the inside of the okra). Then use a paring knife to shave away the bumpy ridge where the stem meets the body.